October NRC Meeting Recap

The Natural Resources Commission will have two major fisheries decisions to make in the coming months.

Two fisheries orders came up for information at the October 12 Natural Resources Commission meeting at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena.

Among the most controversial is this statewide warmwater regulations for muskie (FO 215.18), in which the DNR has proposed creating a year round catch and immediate release (CIR) season for muskie. Guides, charter boat captains, and muskie groups operating out of Lake St. Clair have been protesting CIR for Lake St. Clair.

NRC Commissioner Rex Schlaybaugh asked whether the DNR could take a survey of anglers detailing their feelings towards CIR for muskie. Schlaybaugh’s proposal came after the NRC was presented with more than 300 signatures from the groups in opposition.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs has continued to point out that DNR Fisheries biologists have no vested interest in “devastating” (as opponents have claimed) the fishery in Lake St. Clair and wouldn’t have proposed this regulation if there was data suggesting it would have a population level impact. This order is being held again for another month, with possible action in November.

In addition to muskie, there are also major changes proposed for the UP streams, where a 10-brook trout bag limit would be considered. This is double the 5-brook trout limit in the rest of the state. In total, this proposal includes 34 sections of stream comprising 1,128 stream miles or 8% of the UP’s Type 1 streams.

NRC Commissioner J.R. Richardson, from Ontonagan, has been the biggest proponent of this increased bag limit and proposed to accept the current proposal but asked the DNR to further review the issue in 2018 and add additional stream miles. Potential action could be in November.

On the wildlife side, there were no actions taken at the meeting. However, the DNR reviewed the newest discovery of CWD in Montcalm County and the interim actions that were approved by the DNR as of October 4th.

MUCC takes issue with the fact that they are delaying the baiting and feeding ban in the affected counties until after this deer season, on January 2, 2018, which goes against Michigan’s Surveillance and Response Plan for CWD to move “as rapidly as possible”. Similar frustrations were expressed at the slow speed the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development moved in response to the Mecosta captive cervid facility earlier this year. In 2008, after the first discovery of CWD in a captive herd, both departments moved within a week to ban baiting and feeding across the entire Lower Peninsula and depopulate the index captive cervid herd.

In other wildlife disease news, officials from the DNR and MDARD presented an update on the Bovine Tuberculosis Program in Michigan. USDA has threatened to “downgrade” Michigan’s TB status of either the 4 primary counties (Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda, and Alcona) to Accredited Preparatory or the entire state to Modified Accredited, which would present the cattle industry with significant challenges.

The state agencies prepared a third option in response (link to presentation when available), which is currently being reviewed by the USDA that would target resources to prevent infection of cattle herds and remove deer in the high-risk area of the current MA zone.

In close partnership with USDA Wildlife Services (WS), MDARD and MDNR plans to conduct targeted removal of antlerless deer in and around high-risk herds, while actively improving on-farm biosecurity to further reduce risk. Among the more substantial actions on the deer side includes targeting deer management efforts on the farm level using USDA Wildlife Services sharpshooting and landowner permits, adding a late January/early February hunt in the high risk TB zone, and creating a full time TB Coordinator in the field. MUCC and members of the Michigan Cattlemen Association testified that now is the time to look at expanding the baiting and feeding ban once and for all.

Learn more about how MUCC’s Wildlife Cooperatives program is going to partner in the TB zone to be part of the solution in our next blog.

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